Antibiotic production: the potential of our hairs

New research suggests that a man's beard can help fight antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Facial hair maybe the key to the development of new antibiotics. Teams have been working for several years to develop new drugs that can break down bacteria's resistance to antibiotics. This is a concern that has become a major public health issue. Every year in the United States, more thant wo million people contract an antibiotic-resistant infection and more than 23,000 people die from it. Antibiotic resistance has become a serious health concern world wide. Already a few years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that we are movinginto a "post-antibiotic era" in which previously treatable infections could become life-threatening.

The development of antibiotics is declining!

While efforts are being made to improve the prescribing and use of antibiotics, another obstacle in the fight against drug resistance must be overcome: the development of new antibiotics. Over the past few decades, research and production of new antibiotics has declined significantly. Beards do not have the best reputation for hygiene and recently a study was even published saying that a man's beardis as dirty as the toilet. In this study, random samples were taken from beards. The result was that intestinal bacteria, which are normally found in feces, could be detected.

Antibiotics are in your beard!

Although most bacteria in beards would not cause disease, he describes the results as worrisome. Concerns about beard hair hygiene are unfounded. Although the study results may have led some men to shed their beard hair, some scientists say the concerns are unfounded because most of the bacteria identified in the study are also found on our skin. In fact, new research indicates that whiskers may even protect their wearer from antibiotic-resistant infections. In a study of the faces of 408 male medical workers, with or without beards, it was found that men who wore beards were lesslikely to be colonized with methicillin-resistantStaph aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a group of bacteria that is resistant to most antibiotics and is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections. For this study, beard samples were taken from 20 men on the streets of London. The material from the swabs allowed the scientists to culture more than 100 strains of bacteria over a period of more than 4 weeks. From these samples, a bacterium called Barnesiella, present in the small intestine, could be identified. However, this does not necessarily mean that this bacterium comes from feces. A quarter of the bacteria were able to kill indicator strains. Next, the bacteria were tested for certain indicator strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Scientists were surprised to find thata quarter of the bacteria in human beards were able to kill indicator strains, which means that the bacteria themselves produce antibiotics. Specifically, the team found a bacterium from beard swabs, called Staphylococcus epidermidis, capable of attacking and killing resistant forms of E.coli. According to the researchers, it is possible that only certain evolving bacteria have selected the ability to produce toxins that can kill antibiotic-resistant strains, and that only certain bacteria have developed drug resistance. These results may reassure men who are concerned about the hygiene of their beards.

The development of antibiotics for pharmaceutical companies

It is likely that it will take a long time to prescribe antibiotics inspired by beard bacteria. The production and testing of new antibiotics is very time consuming, complex, expensive and often of little benefit to large pharmaceutical companies. Because antibiotic drugs are characterized by a short shelf life, more money can be made fromdrugsthat must betaken on a daily basis, which pharmaceutical companies know well.
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